Our View: Putting parking in gear | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Putting parking in gear

We like the plan announced by the city of Steamboat Springs in November to convert the Eighth Street parking lot from a maximum of four-hour parking to eight hours. So we were encouraged this week to learn there is the possibility of more long-term parking becoming available for retail, restaurant and office workers in the downtown core.

Public Works Director Chuck Anderson said Friday that the city is pursuing arrangements with owners of private parking lots of 10 or more spaces to make them available to the public for long-term parking. And with the departure of office workers at Yampa Valley Electric Association's downtown building now imminent, that large parking lot at 10th and Yampa streets is one focus of the city's interest. Anderson said YVEA already allows after-hours parking in the lot, but the city is talking to the electric cooperative about expanding that to include business hours.

It's all part of an effort to respond to the recommendations of consultant Scot Martin that the city give downtown workers an appealing alternative to parking in spaces adjacent to the businesses where they work.

Steamboat Springs City Council took Martin's recommendation to allow longer parking at Eighth Street in hopes that parking spaces closer to businesses will turn over more often, facilitating the commerce that makes Steamboat's world go round. We just hope City Council will give its staff the tools it needs to really understand whether the conversion of the Eighth Street lot is succeeding.

We think the Eighth Street project has great promise as a case study, but in order to truly learn from it, we think city staff needs a methodology that would allow them to know with a high degree of clarity who is parking in the lot and for how long. We'd also like to know how often the entire lot turns over.

Anderson said Friday that he has met with Director of Public Safety Joel Rae and members of his code enforcement staff to talk about the means they have to monitor and learn from changing parking habits in the downtown. They told him it's already apparent from how full the lot is that some downtown parkers are already making the change. Anderson said staff think they can give him a good feel for how frequently the parking lot is turning over, but we think hard data would be even better.

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Coincidentally, Anderson had a chance to "test drive" license plate recognition software during a vendor demonstration in Steamboat on Thursday. The Public Works director hasn't been turned loose to purchase the new technology that holds some promise for helping us understand our downtown parking situation like never before. City Council wants a more detailed cost/benefit analysis before it shifts the process into drive, and we respect that.

At the same time, we would urge the city to take this opportunity to gather hard facts about parking habits in downtown Steamboat. As well, we hope they will continue to capitalize on Martin's common-sense, low-capital-intensive recommendations, which include restriping the Eighth Street lot to yield 12 additional spaces and shrinking other downtown spaces from 10 feet to 9 feet in length.

At issue

Steamboat School District’s collaborative bargaining meetings now are being conducted in open session.

Our view

Code enforcement staff needs modern tools to collect data on parking habits.